Disclaimer: This story was originally written for two very special young women, my daughter Danielle and her best friend Azra. I have used without consent, characters owned by Renpic, MCA, and borrowed characters and situations (such as the conception of a child in a certain tree house) with the consent of my favorite bard, Melissa Good. B.L. Miller has graciously allowed me the use of Saras. DJWP provided me with some Amazon protocols. Gin kept me going when I was going nuts, and my first Beta Reader MyWarrior deserves traditional undying gratitude for her constant encouragement. Mary Morgan has also been a constant touchstone and guide to the characters. Since the first attempt at telling this story, I have also been aided by some of the newer Bards such as Thenorm, Extra, Georgia, Advocate and everyone else who has let me whine to them late at night. Though not directly involved in its production, Archaeobard has provided me with the most amount of fun I have ever had while fully clothed in my own home. Ann Dancer was the Beta for this version, accept my gratitude for your time, skill and graciousness. Strangely enough, I have also been aided by Webmasters. Ruth, MaryD and Lawls. Finding the human switch, they have shown me great kindness. These people have made the Xenaverse a true wonder for me.
I would never have written this if Lunacy had not created her listings; we all owe her a great debt. (and I can say this without fear or suggestion of underhanded motives, because she doesnt like time travel stories.) All in all, its an absolutely amazing support system, I can only encourage others to dive into the pool.
Violence: No more than the show
Sex: Some of the persons depicted are in loving consensual relationships. A baby is born. Couples are sometimes the same sex, and if that bothers anyone, I personally think they need more exposure to it, but if youre under 18 or live under primitive legal statutes, move on or move. If I occasionally blushed while reading it aloud, it must be PG 13. Mail would be appreciated at email@example.com
So lets get started, eh!
Part 1 of 10
Cedar and DIRT, in her mouth? What the...? Robin groggily wiped off her offended lips, and opened her eyes. Trees. Big trees. She closed her eyes again. There were no trees in her bedroom usually, were there?
Still hoping it might be some kind of dream, she tried to focus on only the sounds. Birds chirping. Leaves rustling. A forest? She opened her eyes again and found herself looking directly at a fern right in front of her prone body. She was lying on hard, very real ground, not in a dream, and sure as hell not in her bed which was where she was supposed to be. She stared at the fern. It was ...different. Not alien, but the veins dividing the leaves were like none she had ever seen before, but then, the bird calls were not familiar and even the air had scents that she knew were foreign...
She tried to slow her heartbeat. Where the hell was she?
She raised her head and propped herself up on one arm to look around. Definitely woodland, but the trees were like the fern, subtly different from what she was used to. It was only then she noticed that she wasnt alone; there was another sprawled out figure lying apart from her in this mysterious glade.
Having become accustomed to awakening in strange places, James had come to without as much disorientation. He hadnt noticed Robin because he was preoccupied with other concerns. His mind was racing: wondering why he hadnt heard the familiar pop when he was transported, trying to analyze why this felt different from his usual trips, searching through his memory for what he called the case file, finding nothing. Then he realized that he had company. His response was to move to a defensive crouch until he identified his companion. Then he relaxed and his face broke into a grin.
"Robin! I..." he started, until he saw her expression.
Robins eyes widened at the sight of the familiar figure. The average height, reddish blonde hair and mustache, son of a...
"Where the hell are we? What have you done, you asshole?" She had only begun to hurl abuse, when she stopped, surprised that it had an effect. His welcoming grin vanished and he literally seemed to deflate. What the hell? She thought. It was bad enough that this creep must have been stalking her for weeks; now he was hurt that she didnt ENJOY being kidnapped?
Dammitall, James was thinking. Were back, and she still doesnt remember. What the hell am I supposed to tell her?
This time he wasnt at fault, he was sure. Somebody else was responsible. Right. All he had to do was convince her of that. Simple, enough, really. Just because he was probably the last person in this or any other world she would ever listen to. But hey, she still hadnt heard the explanation.
Then shed really blow.
He took a deep breath .
"First off, I didnt bring you here." They were now both standing and Robin was unsuccessfully trying to brush off the forest floor grit from her clothes, when she finally noticed she was dressed in garments she had never seen before. Some sort of pastel coloured peasant skirt and blouse. Sandals. She turned blazing eyes to James, who realized that this, this, could be very difficult.
Just keeps getting better, he noted.
"I didnt dress you, I swear I didnt bring you here, and I further swear on my mothers grave, Ill try everything I can to get you home... but youve got to give me some time to figure out exactly where we are."
Robins pursed her mouth and dropped her dark eyebrows over her green eyes to tell him exactly how much she believed him. Even so, she was so, damn it, cute. Short cropped black hair, smaller than average, if she hadnt been so threatening he might have considered her pixieish. But she was furious, and she hated him. Perfect. I love my job, he thought for the thousandth time.
Robin took a deep breath. All I wanted, she thought, were a few guitar lessons. That was all. He had seemed safe, even nice. Hardly at all psychotic.
Another deep breath. Panic will not get you out of this, she told herself. Start again.
"Where are we? How did we get here? How do we get back?"
Good, he thought. She was trying to be rational. Unfortunately the answers he had, were guaranteed to change that for the worse. He knew by the rough weave on the sleeveless coat that was his usual costume for these visits, when they were. It was only after spotting the stone marker beside where he had been lying, that he guessed where. So we start all over again, he thought.
"What do you know about Amazons?"
How the hell did that answer her questions? She noticed for the first time that he had a rather large knife attached to the leather belt at his waist. Answer the question, she told herself quietly. "Do you mean the jungles or the women?"
He wasnt even looking at her now. He was looking up at the trees, for Gods sake! Just what specific kind of crazy was he?
James listened to the bird calls for a moment while searching the upper branches. "Definitely the women." He looked at her. He was still waiting for an answer to his question.
"They were woman warriors," she stammered. "Uh... Wonder Woman, Cut off their breasts to shoot arrows? Why? Is this important?"
"Crucial." he said wryly. He seemed to steady himself. "I pretty well know where we are, and I think weve got a few minutes to talk because it looks like this is the outer boundary. But if Im wrong about how much time we have, there are three things you must believe, no matter how much you distrust me, no matter what ever you think of me, please try to , to, " he struggled, "to accept what I have to tell you. First and most important, no matter how weird or strange this all may seem, it is NOT a dream. There are real PHYSICAL," he emphasized "consequences to being here."
She looked at his knife, and he noticed it for the first time.
"Not from me! " and she saw he seemed shocked at the suspicion. "If you hadnt noticed, you have a dagger as well." He pointed to her right side. Her hand moved casually to grasp the hilt .
"What I mean by consequences," he continued, trying to ignore that her hand was gripping the knife, "is that if you were to cut yourself here", he indicated the general area around him with his hands, "you will still have the cut when you get back," now pointing to a tree behind him with his thumb.
She looked at the tree, and then at James, her face expressionless.
"I meant... Back.. Home!" He almost yelled.
This wasnt going well, he thought. Running his hands through what he thought of as his rapidly graying hair, he tried again.
"Look, what Im trying to say is, that no matter how weird it gets here, no matter how strange it may seem, this is REAL, and if we get hurt or even killed here, I believe it would be permanent. Completely. Finally. Permanent. The last time you were here..."
Robin broke her silence. "The LAST time I was here?"
His mouth opened, then closed. "Ah... well, you see, thats point number two.., youve been here before, but you ..." he almost stopped upon seeing her expression, but plowed on nonetheless, "...you dont remember it." He put up both hands, "but thats actually the good news!"
"Uh huh." She looked about ready to tell him just how good she felt about this whole story so far.
"...Because youre amongst friends who know you."
"Right." Expressionless. " Whats point number three."
"Well, point three," he gritted his teeth, "is that this is ,uh sort of, or at least like, uh," he closed his eyes and waited for the explosion," Ancient Greece...?"
"Sort of, like, ANCIENT GREECE?" Her voice rose.
Actually, that wasnt as bad as he had expected. "Well, there are, what you might call inconsistencies,"
"Like the fact Im here?"
"No, more that everyone seems to be speaking North American English..."
"And you call that an INCONSISTENCY?" Her voice was steadily becoming more strident.
"Im not doing this very well, but" he flashed a resentful look at her, "but last time you were a lot easier to explain things to."
Her eyes widened. "Right." Pause. "The LAST time..."
James looked about for a stone to sit down on. "Look. Whenever I travel like this, everyone seems to be speaking English, the signs are in English, the books are in English, but when I return home, suddenly, I can read Russian, or olde English or whatever. So I think there may be some sort of translation going on..."
"So now were at point four? That youre a time-traveler who keeps busy by giving guitar lessons on the side? And you want me to call that reality?"
He stared right back at her. "Well, yes." He said reasonably.
He ignored her reaction. "But I was trying to explain about everything being in English. Remember that poem I showed you?"
Things were moving a little fast, but she decided to try to keep up. "You mean the love poetry you tried to get me to read, after I told you to leave me alone?" Oh yeah, she remembered that...
"I showed it to you as a test after you were here..."
"Yes! It was a fragment of a poem from around six hundred BC..."
"It was a love poem. That my guitar teacher suddenly showed me. Do you know how creepy that was?"
"It was in the original language, and yet you read it without any problem."
"Thats bull, it was in English." No trace of doubt in her voice.
"It was in ancient Greek, and you read the first lines like it was a note from school..."
She merely crossed her arms and clamped her mouth tight
James had been through this with her before, so he threw up his hands and started walking up hill. "Look. Dont believe me. I dont even care, because soon youre going to have to, or else figure youre going nuts. Now, just let me work out which way to go..."
Robin stayed where she was. "I thought you were beginning to figure out where we were."
Shading his eyes, James stopped to look around. "Well, that marker there, says were on the outskirts of the village where I think were supposed to go to, but I dont know which way its facing... So, I dont know what direction anything is. OK?"
She rolled her eyes. "What, Mr. Big Time Traveler cant tell by looking up at the sun?"
"You still need a reference. It would help if I knew the time of day or what month it is."
Robin laughed. "What do you mean? Its May."
"You can almost accept that weve traveled over two thousand years through time, but you figure its still the same month?"
"Well, excuse me! Im new at time travel, okay?"
James looked around at the countryside. Robin waited impatiently, until a thought struck her. "Wait a minute. You said you didnt know how we got here, but then you implied you do this all the time?"
James seemed to blush a bit. Strange seeing a guy do that, Robin thought. "This time its different, Im not sure how we got here or why." he mumbled.
"So... why cant you use your regular magic powers to get us back?"
He stared at her. She stared right back.
"Well, I dont really understand how I usually travel...." he trailed off, "...but this time I know its different. In fact, Im sort of hoping that this is the holiday of sorts I was offered a while ago, and that two friends of mine, well ours, really, have arranged for us to attend... a sort of party." He finished falteringly.
Her eyes bulged for a split second, but quickly hardened. "A party. Of course. Would these friends of yours have magic powers? Ones that they can like, USE?"
He gritted his teeth again. "Considering the fact that you are a stranger in a strange land, youre being pretty damn sarcastic. And no, they dont have magic powers, but they know...people.. that do."
Which of the Gods would have grabbed us?, James was frantically thinking. Ares had transported mortals though time before, but Gabrielle would never ask a favour of Him, and whoever it was would have to be at the same level in the pantheon to pull off something like this. Not Artemis. She wouldnt have to leave us at the boundary of the Amazon territories, and it would have to be someone unreliable, or...(oh no), flaky,... or else Xena and Gabrielle would know when we were arriving and be waiting for us. And, he sighed, it had to be someone who would want to snatch this particular woman from her warm bed.
"So why am I here?" Was she reading his mind?
"I think I just figured that out..." he cringed in anticipation.
She stopped. "Well...?"
"I think youre my date."
If it hadnt hurt so much, he would have laughed at her reaction. "No, but that may be what Aphro...,what she...our ride, thought. I mean, you probably had a your own invite to this, but..." Robin heard a whizzing sound and James suddenly froze.
"Throw down your knife." he ordered.
"What? No way!" She began to protest. "I just got this thing and..."
She noticed that he had already tossed his blade down beside what seemed to be an arrow still quivering in the ground between his legs.
"Shit," he moaned gibberish to her, "I dont know what the bird calls are or any passwords, Damn it!...do I have the pendant... yes! Wait...OK, put your hands up above your head, palms out like this."
Shrugging, she had just begun to comply when they seemed to be under attack by giant, feathered spiders that began to suddenly drop from the trees. She had time for a broken shriek before they were surrounded by very pointed spears, held by what she now realized were women. This is not happening, she told herself, `you are not about to become shish kabob in some ancient forest. Just imagine youre on a ride at Disneyland, and she waited for her heart to stop pounding. None of the feathered women moved; both they and James appeared to be waiting for someone, and sure enough a mounted Amazon soon emerged from the trees in front of them.
OK, Alice, she thought, just how much curiouser can this get?. The mounted woman was fairly impressive, she judged, and the voice was appropriately deep.
"Male, you are trespassing on the lands of the Amazon, why should we not just kill you now?"
This was the final straw for Robin, and finally unable to take any of this seriously, she stage whispered to James, "Someone else youve dated?"
James ignored her, and decide to go on his hunch.
"We have been brought here by the Goddess Aphrodite," he intoned, "To witness the joining of your Queen and her Champion."
The impression these words might have had was somewhat lost by Robins sarcastic Oh. Right!
The spears remained in place.
"What proofs do you offer of this?" the mounted warrior demanded.
James pulled the pendant from his neck and showing it to the Amazon, stated "I received this during a tribal initiation ceremony from your Regent, Ephiny, as a sign of free passage, and it carries the marks of your Queen and her Champion." Robin looked at it and saw only an ornate circle crossed by a feather.
The object seemed to make no impression on the large woman in the mask. "You think that this trinket allows you, Male, to enter onto our sacred grounds?"
Ignorance having made her fearless, Robin had gotten bored with all this attitude, and with a slight cough, called up to the treetops with a fake British accent, "Is there anyone else up there we can talk to?"
Maybe it was partly because of the tension, and James knew it was the wrong thing to do, but he dropped his eyes and a chuckle escaped.
That was enough. The horsewoman shouted out, "perhaps your deaths will seem as amusing to you, as Amazon honour seems to be."
Cursing his loss of control, and quickly collecting himself, James stood his ground retorting "Its you who are not respectful of Amazon honour. For what you call a trinket, I received with the greatest of pride, and I would fight for what it represents with my honour, and...MY...LIFE!"
"Good answer," called out a voice from behind them as a tall unmasked warrior rode forward, carrying the reins of another horse trotting alongside. "Stand down" she ordered. "Raza..." She acknowledged the other mounted Amazon.
The spears were withdrawn and the warriors drew back a pace. James shoulders relaxed. "Solari. Really, REALLY, good to see you."
"Sorry, but we werent sure when you would arrive, and I stopped to pick up your horse," The scout said, offering the reins to Robin.
This floored her.
"MY horse? I havent ridden since I was twelve."
Now it was Solari who was puzzled. "What are you talking about? Robin, you rode every day for weeks when you were in Amphipolis."
James began to explain. "She doesnt remember anything about her last visit. Its a complete blank...."
By now Robin had seen the horse. "Titan!" the horses name sprang to her lips as she pushed aside the armed warriors.
Solari looked at James questioningly. He shrugged. "She forgets me, traveling through time, of course, the Warrior Princess, right ? But her horse, she remembers."
Robin had frozen in the act of hugging the steed, and was now turning towards him with alarm dawning in her eyes. "This isnt... real, because, I dont..." He ran over to her. She waited for his words of reassurance. he took one hand and said to her carefully;
"You told me last time that you hadnt read much philosophy, but you did read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance."
"WHAT?" She dropped his hand quickly.
James ignored her reaction. "We had a talk about reality. In that book there was the discussion by David Hume, that reality could not be proved because we only feel the sensations of the objects we perceive and not the objects."
"This is NOT helping..."
"Hume said that we could feel the weight or the cold of an iron bar, but not the bar itself."
"James? Not helping At All..."
James was now off on one of his lecture modes. "Immanuel Kant, amongst other things, said that we can prove reality by its continuity through time and space. If you walk around a tree, it has continuity, because you see it from each side, the sun and shadows change as you would expect. But in dreams and moments of insanity, there is no continuity. As much as things appear real, there is a jump or leap from position to position that doesnt occur when we are really perceiving things. Now look around," he said drawing her head up. "As weird as all this is, if you get up on that horse, you will see everything as it was, but from a new angle, your perspective will shift in a manner consistent with..."
Robin finally interrupted, shaking her head to clear it. "Okay! I get it, this isnt a dream, because dreams are weird in a different way."
"If theres a next time, just tell me to pinch myself, pain has continuity too."
"Now what?" She stood, hands at her hips.
"I remind you youre amongst friends.."
"Oh, yeah..." Again her eyes rolled.
"And then I get on this horse with Solari. But stay close ..."
"I know. Whatever else you are, youre still my ride home."
Quiet now, they separated, and with a lift from Solari, James managed to get aboard her mount. Once they were settled, they made their way towards the Amazons village.
* * * *
There was no small talk between the travelers or their escorts. James gave a few worried glances towards Robin, but she seemed to be enjoying the ride and was keeping her eyes on the ground ahead of her mount.
He tapped Solari on the shoulder. "I was only guessing about the Joining and Aphrodite. Was I right? What sort of deal did Gabrielle have to make?"
James knew that it could have been worse if it was Aphrodite who brought them here. Though she could be quite helpful if it suited her, uh, goals, none of the Gods were known for doing something for nothing.
As Solari confirmed. "She did it for an invite, because even though the joining will be on the border for non-Amazons, apparently Artemis is keeping strict tabs on who attends from Mount Olympus".
"So we wont have Ares giving away one of the brides, I take it."
Solari snorted, "No."
James hoped that Robin couldnt hear any of the conversation. If she was already feeling disconnected from reality, she didnt need to learn about, or meet with, the Valley Girl Goddess of Love right away. Maybe later. Much, much later.
"So, are we special, or is everybody getting such a warm welcome?"
Even from his position, James could see the scouts muscles tighten.
Solari had a moment of hesitation, and then remembered who this was. "I dont know. Normally when both the Queen and Tall, Dark and Deadly are here, most of the featherheads are on their best behavior. This time its different. Theres been a lot of rumours about another challenge..."
James was shocked. "Again? Now?"
They came to another clearing, and here they saw a fairly large encampment, with a few smoking fires surrounded by various men, who drew the first mounted Amazons stony stare.
"The Centaurs have set up camp at the east entrance, and here," Solari raised her voice deliberately, "this is where we drop off the riffraff."
"Are Hercules and Iolous here?" asked James.
"Iolous, yeah, but Hercules has another one of those beads."
"But I thought there was only one per..."
"Well, his comes from Hypollyta, you know about the Girdle?... well, nevermind. You dont want to go there."
Noticing his expression, Solari added quickly, "it doesnt make yours any less special..."
James rolled his eyes. "No, its not that, its just that I think Robin overheard that last bit..."
"Hercules?" said Robin, bringing her horse around, "You mean like the cartoon? Disney? God wannabe?"
"Not quite, " James noticed a stocky, tousled blonde emerge from the shadows accompanied by a tall darker type who seemed somewhat familiar to Robin. "But I think heres the guy to ask."
"Iolaus? " questioned James, receiving an answering grin in response. "James." He reached down and gripped the smaller blonde mans elbow as Iolaus returned the gesture. "I wanted to thank you for what you did for Xena and Gabrielle, especially since they, ahh, arent in a, position to ... appreciate what you had to ..., go through to, ah...help them." Iolaus, by this time was blushing more than James, and while Robin was trying to figure out exactly what this was all about, the tall, dark and handsome type had approached her from the side.
"Robin!", he said, staring directly up into her eyes," what a delightful surprise to have you grace our humble camp. I dont suppose you could stay and brighten our...."
"Autolycus," James interrupted, "Robin has a slight problem with remembering her last visit."
Iolaus interjected "Thats perfect for Autolycus. Hes great with introductions, its just after that he just sort of," and he made a downward motion with the flat of his palm.
"Ignore the rabble, sweet lady, I am, Autolycus," and with a motion of his finger along beneath his mustache, "The KING... of Thieves."
Something about the gesture was so familiar, that Robin began to chase the memory down. "I remember you!"
Autolycus responded with "of course" and James, now a tad bitter rejoined with "yeah, you and her horse" as he dismounted, to which Autolycus graciously stroked Titan murmuring "and a fine animal she is", until Robin announced that she had seized the elusive memory,
"Yeah! You were being held against a wall by someone terribly strong and you were begging for your life."
At both James and Iolaus derisory laughs, Autolycus responded, "Pleading possibly, dear lady, but never begging. Anyways..." he turned to look at James, "I take it youre another one with those protective Amazon collars ? Are they any good against fleas?"
James, threatened by yet another pass at Robin, (as if she wanted his protection, he reminded himself), returned "You tell me. Feeling somewhat queasy? Or just jealous?"
"Jealous! If the Amazons are creating some kind of petting zoo in there, I consider it a privilege to be out here with the rest of the men."
"Well Auto, you can go and sleep with all the men you want, its fine with me."
Pointedly ignoring him, James turned to Iolaus and asked "How long have you been here and when are the festivities?"
"Been here two, three days to go, but weve managed to build that platform" pointing towards the hillock, "on what is supposed to be the inner boundary, and now Salmoneous is working with Cyrene to open some kind of outdoor tavern this afternoon. Jessan and Elaini got here today, she was supposed to go on but she refused. Do you know them?"
Not sure exactly how much Iolaus knew about the forest dwellers and their Bond, and for his own personal reasons, James only commented " She wouldnt go, would she. Hows the big guy?"
Accepting that James was changing the subject, Iolaus answered the second question. "Bored. No one will let him do anything. I think hes about to go crazy without any emergencies. I keep telling him to relax, enjoy the holiday, but..." he shrugged.
"Is there any thing I can do for you or have sent once Im inside?"
"No. Gabrielle makes sure that there are runners going back and forth regularly."
"I should have known she would have thought of that."
"Yeah," Robin wasnt sure who this Gabrielle character was, but she knew she didnt like the doe-eyed looks that had come over all three of the men at the thought of her.
"Shouldnt we be going somewhere?" she pointed at the impatiently waiting Amazons.
Again, with the help of a strong arm from Solari, James was once more astride the war-horse and they continued their trek.
Robins first thought was that the village looked like a live action version of Celesteville from the Babar books. The same thatched huts, arranged in neat rows, though in back and front of each were the nitty gritty of real life; latrines, drying tables, fire pits, while the sounds of a warrior camp mixed with those of a child filled town.
She was interrupted in her examinations by Jamess loud cry of "What the hell is that!" and she saw he was pointing at a large unfinished stone structure that was already dominating the rise above the village.
Solaris eyes followed his finger. "I think its supposed to be some sort of therapy for Xena", she grinned.
"Therapy? Why? Did she always want to have a pyramid when she was a child?"
"No, uh," Now Solari seemed to be almost blushing. "Amazon tradition dictates that a couple must be, well, separate for a week before the ceremony, and Xena has, well, some excess energy...."
"A WEEK! Whats Gabrielle doing, writing epic plays?"
"At first, yeah. But now its five, six times a day staff demonstrations." She pointed down to a large clearing, where to Robins horror she could see three heavily armored, six foot Amazon warriors holding swords, surrounding a small strawberry blonde grasping only a pole. In contrast to the attackers she was clad only in a skirt and what looked to be a hideous green sports bra. What was even worse, was there seemed to be a line of warriors waiting impatiently to join in.
Instead of riding down to her defense, James only called out to the potential victim, and was rewarded by a enthusiastic wave. Robin wasnt sure what happened next, but the blonde was suddenly a blur of movement, using the staff to pole-vault behind two of her attackers, unleashing a complex series of strikes with the pole, leaving both of them lying on the ground while the third was staring stupidly at her hand where the sword had been. After what seemed, to Robins amazement, to be a quick apology to one of the fallen, she was racing up the hill towards them.
So this is the famous Gabrielle, who turns strong men to mush, Robin thought. She was pre-disposed not to like this woman, but as the woman approached calling out a glad "Robin! James!" she was hard pressed to feel threatened by her. She was only a little older than Robin, the same small build, and Robin couldnt get over the welcome that was clearly radiating from those green eyes. But then she stopped suddenly, and was looking at Robin with caution tinged with worry. James noticed her hesitation even while dismounting, and after an exchange of heartfelt hugs, he led Gabrielle over to Robin.
"Robin seems to be having some difficulty remembering most of her time here," he explained quietly.
Robin saw sadness? grief flash through those eyes for a moment, before being replaced with concern after a sympathetic look towards James. The Bard held out her hand.
"Im the resident expert on lost memories, so I know something of what youre going through." She gave Robin a quirky grin, before becoming more serious. "Just so you know, whether you recover your memories or not, you are among friends, who are grateful for what you did when you were last here. If you get scared, or worried, I hope you will feel you can talk to me about it."
Robin couldnt deny the sincerity that seemed to flow from this woman, and mumbled a thank you.
"I told her that," grumbled James, "and all she did was bark at me."
"Youre not the Queen of the Amazon Nation," said Gabrielle playfully.
"True." said James catching at the finger that prodded his shoulder.
"Let me walk you to where youll be staying."
Robin followed, still stunned. This little girl, Queen? Commander of these fierce warriors?
"Oh Tarterus," said the Queen.
"What the problem?" James asked.
"Its just that with the Joining and all the guests, were pretty tight for beds, so naturally we put," and Robin noticed she reached over to hold James hand to comfort? him, "both of you in the same hut. Separate pallets, but theres no space left, really..."
They had now reached one of the thatched huts. Both of them looked at Robin, awaiting her decision. The problem was, that as unfair as she was now suspecting it to be, she still saw James as the creepy stalker she had been trying to rid herself of for two months. And now fate and the Queen of the Amazons were conspiring to have them room together. Finally she sighed.
"Were both adults, right? Any unwelcome attention..."
"The next day, two hundred Amazon warriors would be wearing small parts of my anatomy as fanny packs." James completed, and Robin noticed that Gabrielle was still grasping his hand in support.
"Then, its fine with me."
But Robin was not ready for what greeted her when she stepped in the door. Completely filling this primitive thatch hut was an enormous, heart shaped, pink bed, complete with four posters, canopies, piles of pink pillows, and a mirror mounted on top, as if transported directly from a sleazy 20th century motel. Robin stopped dead.
"Oh no, I dont think so, Not At All." she said, and strode off in the direction she had last seen her horse.
Gabrielle and James stood in the doorway and stared at the bed, and then each other.
James pursed his lips. "When you asked Aphrodite for that favour, she was allowed to come onto Amazon territory, right?"
"You didnt happen to mention where you were going to put us up, did you?"
Gabrielle scanned the massive pink bed with a straight face.
"Im thinking that it might have come up."
"Hmmm." was all James could manage.
"Oh, James, I am sorry," but her words lost some of their sincerity when giggles began to erupt from her clenched teeth, and soon they were both laughing and crying. "I really am sorry, James, but this bed, its just so, so..."
"Hideous, I know, but we both better shut up, or Aphrodite will take this as an invitation to visit again."
They both calmed down, and the Amazon Queen tilted her head to one side and asked her friend, "this memory loss, its not new, is it?"
He confirmed with a sad nod.
"When you got back, it was as if youd never met?"
He nodded again. "What was I supposed to do? Oh, by the way, we have this relationship when you traveled back in time with me... What was worse, was that I couldnt act like I didnt know her, and then the more I tried to ..." He gestured at the room and this world in general. " And then," he paused. "Then, even little things of familiarity, scared her....I saw she was becoming... afraid of me. She thought, I..." Quickly, there was that hand in his. "I knew that I should fight for us, I knew that we have this connection, but that fear.... I just couldnt face that. So I tried to let go. But now, " he gave her a broken smile, "here we are, all happily together again. And here I am telling you my problems, when this is supposed to be your celebration. Thank you for bringing us."
"Hey, you two are important to us, and anyways, Im going nuts waiting for this celebration."
"Yeah, I heard. Nice muscle tone though." James laughed.
"You think?" She pirouetted gracefully before returning his smile.
"Pretty good for an old mom. How is Lycea?"
"Gods, over three moons old, and already crawling everywhere can you believe it? Oh, dont get me started. Ill make sure you see her when she gets up. Aunty Ephiny is with her now." She caught herself and rolled her eyes.
"Vanity and my baby. Nice try at changing the subject. OK. Let me try this.. You DO have a connection; whatever else, you know that, Right?" James nodded. " With all the reminders of her last trip, shell probably get back her memory. And whatever else happens, youre going to make new ones while youre here. So?"
"And what if she forgets again when we go back?"
"Youll just have to drop another tankard on your foot. Now, for a real problem, how in Tarterus are we going to move this bed?"
Looking at the object that had dispatched Robin, James growled, "Axes or fire?"
"So`s the bed."
Gabrielle laughed. "I suppose you would see it as a potential timeline endangering anachronism."
James stepped back. "You write your scrolls with that vocabulary?"
The bard blushed. "Ever since Xena told me about an alternate reality she was in, Ive been wondering about a few things.." She gave him a measuring look before turning back to the bed. "But I find it hard to imagine a time in human history where this would be appropriate."
"3:00 to 5:00 AM?" he guessed.
"Between the bars closing and dawn"
Telling him she had warriors waiting, Gabrielle sent James off to explore the village, hoping he would find Robin. Instead he came across a very stone-faced demi-god.
"Hercules, drinking alone?"
Looking up from his mug, and managing a polite smile, Hercules pointed to the empty space on the bench beside him, "I was wondering when youd arrive." He continued with exaggerated politeness. "Please, sit down. Relax. Have a vacation. Thats what Ive been told to do. Several times."
James allowed his eyes to wander about that various tables. "Whos the kid whos watching you so carefully?"
Without glancing over to her, he said, "Thats Stalia. Youll be assigned one soon."
"Amazon law allows for men to walk on their ground, but not unescorted. Apparently the original phrase is something about having a constant knife at the throat."
"And thats your knife at the throat?" Looking at the anxious girl, he figured her age to be around twelve.
"Ephiny and Gabrielle are interpreting the law rather loosely. She gets points towards some training exercise if she keeps me in sight for the whole shift."
"I notice that the passing glances you get seem to be rather mixed. Sort of a Love or Hate thing going on."
Hercules nodded. "A few of the Amazons arent too happy about men wandering around the tribal grounds. Now that there are two of us, we should really bring out the best in them."
"Well. Im in good company, at least."
James was rewarded by the first real smile he had seen on the demi-gods face, and he poured them both a fresh drink.
Robin was watching all of this, debating whether to approach James or not, when her attention was caught by the meanest looking woman she had ever seen, (though still one of the most gorgeous,) who was being followed by Gabrielle. She was carrying what appeared to be another of Gabrielles victims, if the Queens abject expression was any indicator. The warrior was at least six feet tall, and her armor and leathers were different from any other she had seen in the village. Her hair was darker than, well, hell, it was black. She was carrying a massive Amazon with almost no effort, and she seemed to be struggling with herself not to kill an older woman who was barring her entrance to what seemed to be a clinic of some kind. Meanwhile, a group of the village children were clustering around, all of them somehow ignoring the violence laden looks she was parceling out. The warrior spotted the Fabio type guy seated with James and yelled at him.
"You! You wanted something to do, right?" Yelling, her voice sounded like raw silk. She shifted the injured warrior and pointed at the older woman "Pound this relic into the ground like a tent post, please? You know I`d do it myself, but..."
There was a backward glance towards Gabrielle. Then she saw James.
"And YOU, you could take these children and bore them to death!! .OK? Like now?"
She pushed past the older woman, ignoring her cursing, and still carrying the wounded Amazon, strode inside. Hercules and James noticed Robin staring after her in shock.
"That was Xena." explained James.
"Shes our friend." added Hercules
Continued in Part Two
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